Recently there's been a post going around that talked about how these Two Divorced Individuals were So Great because They Took A Picture Together With Their Kid Every Year.
And then came the comments from the ignorant:
“This is how EVERYONE should do it!”
“Those parents are doing it right!”
“There is no reason that every parent shouldn't do this! If you don't you're selfish!”
"This is PUTTING THE KIDS FIRST, KUDOS!"
There has been article after article about how wonderful it is when exes are best pals, sharing birthday parties, sitting together at events and games, and the like. It's great for those who can. One side of my own situation gets along in spite of the awful history, (but with boundaries in place), one side has repeatedly caused so much harm through a suspected disorder, lies, revenge, accusations and court that there is no possibility of common ground. Condemning people who are willing but UNABLE to effectively "co-parent" is ignorant.
IF YOU'RE BEST PALS, THEN WHY GET DIVORCED?
For the record, I did not divorce my ex husband because I wanted to hang out with him during holidays or host birthday parties "Come on over!" at my house with him traipsing through the home I've made with my new husband.
If you haven't been through divorce, especially a contentious one, especially one that maybe wasn't your fault but someone else dropped a nuclear weapon in your home and you were left with the high emotions of the fallout from someone's selfish decisions, then you really have no reason to comment.
Every situation is different; and there is a BIG difference between a couple who sat down and said, "This isn't working, let's just go our separate ways" and ones who split up due to abuse, whether emotional through cheating or physical. It is INCREDIBLY insensitive to expect that everyone act the same or that there is some "standard" to strive for, making people question themselves: "What is wrong with ME?" when honey, it's NOT you.
The only rules are not to bash the other parent to your children and don't use them as pawns in your chess game hell bent on revenge. Be civil. If necessary, parallel parent.
Yes, go ahead and unapologetically parallel parent. For your sanity. Go ahead. I support you.
You can read more about it HERE.
If you had the pleasure of divorcing someone with narcissistic tendencies or a full fledged personality disorder, then NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE can judge your right to protect your own emotions and self-worth, to protect your solid boundaries and as a result of that, protect your children while they're in your care.
You can't rescue your kids from a narcissist/disordered other parent. That will be a road they will have to walk down and recover from on their own. But you CAN enforce boundaries and teach your children valuable life lessons.
And that means putting a hedge of protection around your life, for the sake of your soul and your kids.
Imagine being told by friends, family, internet trolls, that you just HAVE TO sit in a room/talk on the phone/co-mingle at games/pretend to be friends with someone who maybe had:
1. Cheated on you with total disregard for their vows, total disregard for their children in their actions. Imagine you had overheard your spouse on the phone with the person they're cheating on you with, saying "All he/she cares about is the children. Can you believe that?!" (THE AUDACITY).
2. Created a new human with someone other than their spouse.
3. Pretended to be amicable and agreed to all of the divorce stipulations, wanted to hurry and sign the dotted line to marry someone else; then when YOU moved on later, they are so ridiculously jealous that they threatened and then slapped you with court (classic personality disorder behavior!) in an attempt to disrupt your wedding and new marriage.
4. Make false allegations against you and attempted to deny you your parental rights, decision making and custody of your children, when the situation was not your doing. Not even a little bit.
5. Gotten pregnant on purpose knowing you adamantly did not want more children.
6. Not paid any support for years. You can handle it, but you legitimately need some help, and you didn't create them alone.
7. OR Someone who says "I never want child support, time with my children is enough"---until they decide that cheating with--and then marrying--a jobless, unmotivated person wasn't allowing them to keep up the lifestyle they used to have, and they now expect you to fund their life. And then cut their own hours to part time. You work like a dog with 50/50 custody and now cover your own AND the other parent expenses. Seems legit. (See "Golden Uterus Complex" in book below).
8. Dragged your children to so many different doctor and therapist appointments looking for a "fix" for the damage that they have done that you are forced to watch your children trudge through life covered in labels and prescriptions.
9. You also cannot attend any appointments because of the excessive conflict and inability to focus on your children without the other parent insisting on being present. When they are there, they have outbursts and make the therapist uncomfortable. So you have no choice but to keep your distance for the children's sakes.
10. Dragged your new spouse and their children into their unstable world with constant comments about how they're "not really family"; confusing your children and forcing them to show allegiance; attempting to ruin the lives of your new stepchildren with false accusations. Doing so while promoting themselves publicly as an "advocate for children".
11. Emotionally abused, manipulated, threatened and gaslighted you, used court as a weapon; repeatedly shit on you in ways that make the children fully aware of the tension.
(Just a few, ahem, hypotheticals).
I mean, COME ON. When would you go to a therapist and hear them say, "You should really stay buddies with your abuser. You should let them hang out and make the best of it because THAT JUST MAKES EVERYONE FEEL BETTER".
It's the same thing.
SOMEONE'S MENTAL ILLNESS, EVEN IF IT'S YOUR CHILDREN'S OTHER PARENT, IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Think of it as their new spouse having the life sentence now. You were LUCKY to escape.
I'm here to tell you, IT'S REALLY OKAY TO SAY NO TO "CO-PARENTING" WITH ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT AND INSTEAD USES THE TERM AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MANIPULATE YOU THROUGH THE CHILDREN.
Just because you had children with someone does NOT make your life their fair game and mean that they have ANY right to be disruptive, belligerent, abusive or manipulative to you.
And showing your children that you can be civil in their presence while enforcing boundaries to protect yourself?
What a valuable lesson for them!
Show them there are consequences in life if someone violates you, if someone is abusive, no matter who that person is.
Imagine your children in a relationship that you notice is abusive. Would you not do everything in the world to protect them?
Then give them that strong example. Show them you can be a civil human being to someone who has caused you harm, while still maintaining appropriate distance and a hard line stance against further abuse. Someday they'll remember that Mom or Dad JUST SAID NO. Show them that how you treat someone matters. Break the cycle so they don't go on to abuse their OWN spouse or behave like spawn of Satan.
Protect yourself. In doing so, you are creating a better life and environment for your children. Mom/Dad aren't as on edge. They are able to focus on their children. They're able to find love again and build a better life and relationship example. They find their own voice and strength and say no to what damages. They protect their kids from the tension at joint parties and school events.
So go ahead and do you. Sit on the other side of the bleachers. Plan your own parties. Limit contact.
It's your life to live, don't let anyone tell you you have to be or do anything that harms you.
For an EXCELLENT resource that we've found incredibly helpful (and so on point you wonder if someone has been observing your life), I highly recommend this book:
Now go take some pictures of your kid with just you, or you and their new stepparent, or their stepsiblings and rejoice in your new beginnings, your forever family, and being a strong, FREE, DAMN GOOD, parent.
You don't owe the world (or the ex) a thing.